[Avionics Today 01-07-2015] Vice President of Elbit Systems’ Aerospace Division, Gadi Maydan, believes there is growing global trend regarding demand for avionics maintenance services. Avionics Magazine caught up with Maydan following Elbit Systems' announcement of a new $90 million award from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) to provide maintenance for the avionics on the Israeli Air Force's (IAF) fleet of F-16 fighter jets to speak about the emerging market.
F-16 fighter jets. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
In addition to providing maintenance in terms of re-wiring and swapping out legacy radar systems for new ones, Elbit is also taking part of the contract award to establish a new national aircraft maintenance center for the IAF's other squadrons and bases. Launching the new maintenance center will allow Elbit to pursue other similar avionics and aircraft maintenance contracts in the future, as opposed to investing only in new equipment and performance of the maintenance service itself. The new center will also help to increase the availability of replacement parts, Maydan said.
"The concept is based on logistic windows in the IAF bases and maintenance center that will provide O-level services and field services support. D-level shall be done at the OEM’s facilities," said Maydan.
Keeping costs down is a key issue right now when it comes to avionics maintenance, especially for military aircraft operators who are choosing to upgrade their existing aircraft fleets rather than replace them with next generation airframes, such as Lockheed Martin's F-35 fifth generation fighter.
The new maintenance contract for Elbit coming early in 2015 also shows how there has been a trend in increasing military spending outside of the United States, while the U.S. continues to drastically reduce its own military budget. For example, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) — a nongovernmental organization that monitors global conflict — U.S. spending in 2013 was roughly equal to the next nine top global spenders combined, accounting for 37 percent of all global aggregate military spending. This was the case despite the U.S. cutting military expenditure by 7.8 percent in 2013 to $630 billion, whereas its top two rivals raised spending, with China increasing military costs by 7.4 percent and Russia by 4.8 percent in 2013.
Despite the U.S. reducing its military budget in recent years, Maydan still sees demand for military avionics and general aircraft maintenance as a growth area.
"We believe that this is a world growing trend, enabling to enhance the operability of systems by increasing their availability while saving costs," Maydan said.
"This trend is even more popular in times of budget cuts, but we presume that this approach will further grow, even in times of prosperity. Our experience shows that the customers are highly satisfied with our performance and they select us for additional, similar projects. We have been providing such services in projects worldwide, to the customer’s satisfaction, and we expect a continued growth in this field," he added.
Elbit also provides similar maintenance services for countries outside of Israel, including Brazil and the United States. M7 Aerospace, Elbit’s San Antonio, Texas-based subsidiary, provides engineering, upgrade, support and maintenance services for U.S. military aircraft.
The aerospace and defense manufacturer also provides outsourcing support for the IAF's fleet of Hermes 450 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
"Elbit Systems also provides maintenance and logistic support in other fields such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), communication systems, Electronic Warfare (EW) and more," said Maydan. "We believe that this solution is not only cost effective but also highly efficient as it maximizes the aircraft availability and as a result enhances the overall operation of the aircraft or other systems."